Mark Oulaghan landed the biggest Grand National Steeplechase uppercut of all when he claimed his fifth victory in Riccarton's prestigious jumping feature.
The Awapuni trainer's conditioning skills were perfectly showcased when he produced Upper Cut for an impressive survival of the fittest performance to claim top honours in the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge-sponsored event.
Now the most successful trainer in the history of the race following earlier wins with Deecee Seven (1997, 1998) and Counter Punch (2010, 2011), he has been patient with Upper Cut who required a year off following a tendon injury in 2012.
"He won his first two 'chases and then had a sequence of problems so full credit to the horse for the way he has bounced back," Oulaghan said.
Upper Cut has been sparingly raced due to his injuries, but there was confidence in his camp ahead of the National following a brave effort to finish runner-up in the Koral Steeplechase seven days ago.
"We were very happy with his run on the first day and he had done well since," Oulaghan said.
Spirits were furthered buoyed after a solid final work-out from the 10-year-old on Thursday morning.
Upper Cut was in touch with the pace throughout and the son of Yamanin Vital stayed on strongly after jumping the final fence in front under leading Australian jockey Paul Hamblin.
"It's been a good year for me and this tops it off," he said. "He was a bit keen like he was the other day, but he kept finding. It's not about me though - it's the trainer and I've always had respect for him."
Upper Cut beat Mr Mor, who also finished runner-up 12 months ago, by half a length and they were clear of Gargamel, who nosed last year's winner High Forty out of third money.
The favourite The Big Opal made the running before he slipped on landing after clearing the fence 1000m out and rider Matt Gillies lost an iron. He tried to stay balanced, but they came to grief at the final flight.
- NZ Racing Desk